One of the hardest things to come back from in all of sports is losing in the championship game. However, Maryland women’s lacrosse may be up for the challenge.
The Terps fell to perennial powerhouse Northwestern, 8-7, in the 2011 title game and will now set their sights on the national championship once again in 2012. One reason for optimism: Karri Ellen Johnson is back for her senior season.
Johnson, last year’s National Preseason Player of the Year according to Lacrosse Magazine, returns after suffering a concussion that sidelined her for much of 2011, including the national championship game. And if her first three years at Maryland are any indication, Terp fans are in for treat now that this girl is senior.
Johnson has been a scoring machine ever since she arrived at Maryland. In her freshman year she scored 74 goals, which is the third highest single season total for any player in Maryland history. She followed up that astounding performance with 69 goals in her sophomore campaign and was not showing any signs of slowing down last season, her junior year, before she got hurt. In the eleven games she participated in last year, Karri Ellen scored at the highest rate of her career: 3.5 goals per game. In all likelihood, now that she is healthy, she is going to pick up right where she left off.
Other key returners for Maryland include junior midfielder Katie Schwarzmann and senior goalie Brittany Dipper. Schwarzmann led the team with 65 goals a year ago and also chipped in 16 assists. Dipper has been a starter since she was a freshman and has a record of 55-4 in net.
However, the Terps will also be without some very talented players they had a year ago. Cathy Reese’s crew loses six seniors from last year, including their 2011 points leader Sarah Mollison. They also lose Laura Merrifield, who compiled 128 goals over her career.
Since the national championship game, there has been no drastic shift in where Maryland stands nationally. The Terps are ranked second in both the Inside lacrosse/deBeer and the IWLCA/Under Armour preseason polls. Ranked ahead of them in both cases is Northwestern.
Will there be a third consecutive Wildcat/Terp finals match up? First, both teams have to focus on their regular season schedules.
The Terps’ toughest stretch is from March 30th to April 11th when they play three road games in a row against current top 15 RPI teams (Penn, UNC and Princeton). Their easiest game will likely be when they host Stony Brook on March 20th.
But before any of that, the Maryland women’s lacrosse season kicks of on Feb. 12, 2012 when the Terps host William & Mary, a team that Mollison has become an assistant coach for.